Olympic Athletes Seek Understanding and Consolation from Christian Counsellors

Over the past two weeks, the Olympic Games has engaged nearly every corner of the world as the Television has broadcasted the event live across the globe.

For the Olympic athletes, it is a great dream and honour to win gold at this four-yearly event. The physical fitness and intensive training are very important, but the psychological status is also an important factor for success.

Almost 11,000 athletes have taken part in the Olympic Games in Greece in 298 competitions and in 28 disciplines. 6,000 coaches, physiotherapists and other officials accompanied them.

There is only one winner in each race, and the athletes often have to prepare intensively for at least four years to win the prize. According to Dietmar Ness of the German evangelical ministry SRS, who is a counsellor in the Olympic Village, pressure is mounting on Olympic athletes, and those who fail to win a medal often drop into an "inner void" because they believe that their four-year intensive preparations have been in vain.

Some athletes' performances have been criticised heavily in the press thus aggravating the situation for the athletes. Therefore, many athletes have sought understanding and consolation from Christian counsellors who are not part of the Olympic team or trainers and other officials.

Open evangelism is out of bounds in the Olympic village, as Christian counsellors have been instructed to refrain from proselytizing. They must not exert religious pressure on athletes. Anyone not abiding by the rules laid down by the Athens Olympic Committee is likely to be expelled from the village. Christians may only hand out Bibles to athletes if they specifically request one. The anonymous distribution of evangelistic literature or videos is not permitted.

However, Ness expressed that it is better to talk personally to individual athletes than to hand out tracts. Approximately 100 athletes attended the last Sunday worship service in the Religious Center. Devotions are held three times a day with ten to twenty participants. Some players have even been baptized during the Games.